CURRENT STATUS OF CONVERSION

As discussed in Chapters 1 and 3, the U.S. supply of Mo-99 is produced primarily by two companies, MDS Nordion and Mallinckrodt, at their facilities in Canada and the Netherlands, respectively (Table 3.1). Two other companies provide backup supplies of Mo-99 to North America: Institut National des Radioéléments (IRE) in Belgium and Nuclear Technology Products (NTP) in South Africa. All four of these companies produce Mo-99 using HEU targets.1 Conversion prospects for these four producers are described briefly in the following sections.

MDS Nordion (Canada)

As was noted in Chapter 3, MDS Nordion obtains impure Mo-99 under a revenue-sharing agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. (AECL) a Canadian Crown Corporation. AECL produces Mo-99 at its Chalk River, Ontario, site by irradiating HEU targets in the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor (Table 3.2) and processing those targets in an onsite hot cell facility. Mo-99 production was planned to be shifted to a new facility at the Chalk River site, but this plan was never realized for the reasons described below.

In August 1996, AECL agreed to construct two new reactors and a processing facility for MDS Nordion at the Chalk River site. These facilities, referred to as the Dedicated Isotope Facilities (DIF), include two reactors (referred to as the Maple reactors; Sidebar 10.1) and a New Processing Facility (NPF) with five hot cells to process irradiated targets and to manage the resulting solid, liquid, and gaseous wastes from the Mo-99 extraction process.2

Construction of the DIF, including the Maple-1 reactor, was completed by AECL in 2000. However, Maple-1 hot commissioning was halted by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission because of a technical problem with the reactor (see Sidebar 10.1). The delay in commissioning the reactor resulted in large cost overruns3 and culminated in mediation proceedings initiated by MDS Nordion. A settlement was announced in early 2006: According to a representative of MDS Nordion, the settlement involved the

1

The targets used by NTP are 45 percent HEU, not the 93 percent HEU used by the other producers.

2

The DIF was designed to irradiate and process HEU targets of a different design than the HEU targets that are currently being irradiated in NRU (see Table 2.2).

3

A representative of MDS Nordion reported to the committee that the original budget for the project was $145 million, but the company spent over $350 million on the project. The committee has not independently confirmed these figures, nor does it know what AECL spent on the project.



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